How to Launch a Preneed Funeral Program
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Preneed funeral programs can be beneficial to both funeral homes and their clientele.

Planning in advance for a funeral or burial service may be a mutually beneficial proposition for you and your customer. Preneed planning gives you the opportunity to begin building long-term relationships with customers while generating future income for your business. Meanwhile, it allows your customer to lock in today’s prices for future services while they decide which memorial products and funeral service options are important to them. Plus, they can make these decisions at their leisure, when they are not pressed for time or emotionally tolled.

Learn more about how to educate your customer base about the benefits of preneed planning.

The Benefits of a Preneed Funeral Program

“Most of the funeral home owners we work with clearly understand the need for a preneed sales program because they know they can’t just count on walk-ins anymore,” says David Falconer, Senior Vice President, Funeral and Cemetery Trust Division Manager at Regions Bank. In fact, he says, “Some industry consultants suggest that having as much as 60 percent of your business come from preneed sales is a reasonable goal if you’re going to build up your pipeline.”

Larger funeral home consolidators typically aim for as much as five times their annual revenue in preneed accounts, Falconer explains. Regardless of the size of your business, Falconer says, “having a healthy percentage of preneed sales in the pipeline can give you a sense of comfort.”

As Falconer suggests, most of the financial benefits of preneed planning arise several years down the road once the plan is implemented and the money from the associated funeral trust or insurance policy is released.

However, there is a smaller amount of immediate revenue that comes from commissions if an insurance product is purchased — and there is a very real bottom line benefit from the referrals that an effective preneed campaign quickly generates.

The Marketing Challenge

So how can you educate potential customers about the benefits of preneed to generate new business and referrals? How much marketing do you need to increase the number of preneed planners vs. walk-ins?

For both questions, the answer is: it depends. No two funeral businesses or funeral directors are alike, and there is no single best approach. There are, however, some areas to consider as you decide which direction to take.

Before you pick up the phone, send an email, mail a letter, or write a blog post, decide on a reasonable goal for your efforts and determine how you will measure your success. If you want to increase the number of people you speak with about pre-planning each month, be sure to anticipate how you and your staff will accommodate this time commitment.

Finding the Right Approach

There are a number of ways your business can spread the word and educate customers about preneed services.

Some funeral homes employ dedicated salespeople who reach out to their communities and host preneed seminars. “Many funeral homes will invite people to a social gathering and make a presentation about the advantages of pre-arranging.” says Jenny Crespo, Vice President and Relationship Consultant Funeral & Cemetery Trust at Regions Bank.

“If you’re unable to host a gathering, following through on the phone or through the mail with families who have used your services in the past is still an option,” she says.

You may also market your preneed services by updating your website to be more searchable, interactive and mobile-friendly. This is important if you want to reach the senior demographic, who are increasingly using the internet to find the information they need. It’s important that your website provides potential customers with the information they desire when visiting your site.

Leverage Your Strengths

As with all business decisions, try to build off your strengths as you plan your strategy.

For example, if you operate in a smaller community with an extremely loyal customer base, look for ways to maximize growth from word-of-mouth referrals. If you’ve been involved with community groups, churches, civic organizations, or local team sponsorships in the past, keep in touch with them about their current needs to keep your relationship growing. “Getting involved with local retirement centers and churches that host lunches for seniors are great ways to reach out into the community as well,” Crespo says.

Get the Help You Need

While you and your employees likely have considerable customer service skills developed from years of anticipating the needs of grieving families, you may be less skilled in matters such as digital marketing, direct response advertising, and search engine optimization.

“Making the transition to build a marketing pipeline with a trained preneed sales force requires significant time and money for staffing, training, planning, and management. It’s a huge step,” says Falconer.

While large funeral services consolidators have the scale and resources to hire people with these skills to build their preneed presence, smaller family-owned funeral homes operating with limited budgets may not be able to invest as heavily into marketing.

If your budget truly is limited, look for resources available through your state funeral directors’ association and national trade associations such as NFDA and ICCFA.

There are also a handful of companies that specialize in marketing for funeral services providers. These firms may be more sensitive to how you communicate to the families you serve, while simultaneously applying technology to your preneed marketing efforts through pay-per-click advertising, local search, and search engine optimization. These experts can redesign your website to boost its speed and help make content more mobile friendly.

Will the effort you make to more effectively implement your preneed program be worth it? “Absolutely,” says Falconer. “Remember that your preneed program is an investment in the future of your operation. It’s truly a way to be thinking about the long-term viability of your business.”

Regions Funeral and Cemetery Trust Services is a dedicated business division that focuses solely on funeral and cemetery trust needs throughout the country. Learn more about our services and capabilities.

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This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and irs.gov for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.